Grid operator expects to save ‘congestion dollars’ with Mason-Dixon power line project
The driving force behind the controversial Transource Energy project to build miles of power lines in northern Harford County can be summed up in one word — “congestion.”
More power lines, as well as substations, are needed to ensure power can get through the regional grid to where it is needed most in a manner that is most efficient and affordable for the grid operator, and ultimately affordable for electric customers, according to a representative for PJM Interconnection, the interstate grid operator.
“If they can’t deliver their megawatts to where it’s needed, where the demand is, due to transmission limitation, then you need to use a more expensive [power] generation,” Mark Sims, manager of transmission planning for PJM, said Thursday.
But the project, called Independence Energy Connection, has residents of Northern Harford County and southern York County, Pa., up in arms because they fear it will damage the environment, disrupt the area’s extensive agri-business activities and blight their rural landscapes.
Opponents held another meeting Thursday evening to plot their strategies ahead of open houses planned by the power line project developer next week.
“You have something that’s called congestion because you’re running more expensive generation in lieu of the cheaper generation,” PLM’s Sims explained.
The additional money spent to move power from more expensive generation sources, such as power plants, is known as “congestion dollars,” he said.
“Anyone that pays an electric bill is paying those congestion dollars,” he added.
PJM Interconnection has commissioned Transource Energy to develop Independence Energy Connection which involves building 40 miles of new power lines between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the eastern and western parts of both states, plus two new regional transmission stations, one which bill be along the Susquehanna River in York County.
The $320 million “market efficiency project,” is expected to save consumers $622 million over 15 years, according to PJM officials. It is expected to be in service by 2020.
PJM is not a utility; it is a “regional transmission organization” that operates the electric grid on transmission lines owned by utilities such as BGE and Pepco Holdings, according to Sims.
“We basically coordinate with all the people that do own the transmission,” he said.
PJM operates a grid serving customers in 13 states — Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — plus Washington D.C., according to its website.